In less than two weeks, a new Whole Foods Market will open its doors in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Practically a decade in the making, the store has been in the news for years thanks to its ironic location on the banks of an EPA Superfund site, but here at Cultivating the Good, we’re interested in this Whole Foods for a different reason: they’ve got an in-store (well, on-store) farm.
Thanks to a partnership with NYC-based Gotham Greens, the Whole Foods at 3rd and 3rd will open on December 17th topped with a 20,000-square foot rooftop greenhouse. Gotham Greens, best known for their current facility in Greenpoint, paid for and constructed the facility, and plans to produce 150 tons of hydroponically-grown greens, herbs, and tomatoes each year.
Illustration of the planned Gowanus Whole Foods
The partnership between Gotham Greens and Whole Foods actually goes back several years. Whole Foods stores in Manhattan have long stocked Gotham produce. However, this will be the first time that Whole Foods (or any supermarket chain for that matter) will have a retail location combined with a commercial-scale greenhouse. Any excess crops not used by Whole Foods will be sold to Gotham Greens’ restaurant-heavy network of clients.
Gotham Greens’ Greenpoint facility.
Controlled-environment greenhouses like this one may lose some of the romanticism of farming, but do make growing easier and more reliable (and, let’s face it, possible in a place like New York City). Temperature, water, and nutrient levels are all monitored and controlled by computers, creating ideal growing conditions with yields up to 20 times higher than field production.
Not to mention the protection that four walls and a roof can provide! In the immediate time frame after Superstorm Sandy, for example, Gotham was the only farm able to still deliver fresh lettuce locally. Most other urban farms faced significant clean-up tasks.
These facilities reduce environmental impacts, too. The new rooftop farm will feature innovative irrigation systems that use 20 percent less water than conventional farming while also mitigating the urban heat island effect and insulating the building below. And Gotham Greens uses no chemical pesticides in their operation, relying instead on integrated pest management and biological controls.
While many have expressed reservations about the new Whole Foods Gowanus outpost, there’s no doubt that this location will feature some of the freshest produce imaginable—in some cases making it from farm to shelf in 20 minutes. Plus, we really like this emerging model of partnership between retailers and growers and hope to see more of it in the future.